Displaying adaptability: The many faces of a single rate

Petty Officer 2nd Class Edward Cramer adapts to his enviornment in Alaska.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Edward Cramer adapts to his enviornment in Alaska.

Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Edward Cramer

When I joined the Coast Guard in 2008, it was my understanding that a “machinery technician” worked soley on “machines”; nothing more, nothing less. Already having a fairly strong comprehension of engineering, I figured working in a field that focused on just machines would be an ideal career choice and something I would thrive in. Was I right? Partly. Yes, I am thriving (I drive a Honda), but not because I spend every waking hour studying rate specific knowledge.  It’s because I do the exact opposite.

My first unit was a cutter in Alaska. Being an engineer, I spent most of my time in the engine room, right where I figured I’d be. But I had collateral duties like refueling helicopters and hoisting small boat boarding teams as a davit operator. In my spare time, I would “volunteer” to shovel snow. After three years in Alaska, the time to transfer came and it was off to sunny Morro Bay, Calif.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Edward Cramer adapting to his enviornment in Morro Bay aboard a 47-foot MLB.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Edward Cramer adapts to his enviornment in Morro Bay, Calif., aboard a 47-foot MLB.

 Station Morro Bay has a few response boats and far less engineering equipment in comparison with the cutter I had just come from, so I thought being an engineer here would be simple. As it turned out, I was wrong. I was immediately thrown into a wide array of qualifications I thought I had no business having: communications watchstander, crewmember and boarding officer are just a few of the jobs that have nothing to do with my specific rate. (Watching an engineer become proficient in chartwork is a highly amusing experience, or so I’m told.) Nonetheless, through sheer will — and a threatening deadline — I’m now fully qualified.

“MK’s do a variety of jobs that extend beyond their primary job description and Station Morro Bay is no exception,” said Lt. Lori Loughran, station manager, Sector Los Angeles / Long Beach. “Machinery technicians have incorporated into the crews that provide safety and security services to the public.”

On any given day, I must be able to tackle an engine rebuild, conduct a number of boardings, deploy on a search and rescue case, maintain radio guard in the communications center, study toward my next advancement and most importantly, ensure the station has a ready supply of coffee — or none of what I just listed off will get done.

Who knows what qualifications my next unit will have for me? I may have to start from the bottom and work my way up again.

Being in the Coast Guard means more than just showing up to work and doing the same job you’ve had for 20 years. It’s about focusing on all of your responsibilities as a whole. Your job is every qualification you hold, so you must know every aspect of your job equally. Luckily, everyone I have had the pleasure of working with loves their job and has helped to create an outstanding work environment, one that gives people the confidence they need to adapt to such a demanding lifestyle.

With an organization so small, it is truly amazing how much we, the Coast Guard, are able to accomplish.